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  1. #1
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    Jun 2010
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    Polk Co, NC, USA
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    Question Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    My one and only hive has had lots of bees that seem unable to fly lately. After orientation there can be 75-100 of them wandering around on the deck (where the hive is). Most are trying to fly, but can't. I don't find many dead bees at all.

    Their wings appear perfectly normal. (occasionally some will seem small to me, but still well formed.) I usually go out and pick up all that I can and put them back up on the deck so they can get in the hive before dark. They are happy for the lift. Yesterday I found one mite on one of the flightless girls. This is the first presence of mites that I have seen. They also have some SHBs.

    This is from a Russian nuc. that i started on June 19. They just began this non-flying thing 3 weeks ago. They are not really booming. they are still in on deep super with no real honey stores.

    I am going to do a full inspection today. Any ideas on what this could be and what I should be looking for?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Deformed wing virus perhaps. Parasitic mite syndrome maybe. Whatever it is, even though I understand theurge to do so, returning the bees that are on the ground and can't get home on their own may not be doing the rest of the bees in your colony a favor. They, the bees on the ground, may be carrying a virus. I'm not sure. But to let bees do what they do and let nature take it's course is perhaps what you should do. As far as the bees on the ground are concerned.

    You say that about three weeks ago the bees started this nonflying behavior and they aren't booming and they don't have much honey stored, right? I suspect, being in NC as you are, that your bees are bearding because of the heat and that there is no nectar for them to forage for, ie, a dearth period.

    I don't have experience in NC in the summer, but from what I have read on beesource and other places, that is my diagnosis.

    Look to see if your colony is healthy. A good brood pattern, w/out disease showing. Honey and pollen stores. Not over run by SHB or wax moth.
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  3. #3
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    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Thanks, Mark.

    I will refrain from bringing them back. At first I thought that maybe the younger bees (washboarding) were getting toppled out of the upper entrance when orientation flights took off...

    We have been in dearth here. (Although the kudzu started blooming this week and there sure is plenty of that around!) They haven't been bearding. I have them in late afternoon shade and have a ventilated top and screened bottom board. Heck, maybe there just aren't even enough of them to make a goatee.

    Do the viruses just run their course and the hive either makes it or not??

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
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    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    How do you know the bees seem happy for the lift? sorry had to ask

    These bees could be carrying disease and should be left on the ground. Weak bees weaken the hive. Let the hive get healthy. The disease will just expand in the hive to the point of taking it down completely

    You have not mentioned your mite counts. Monitor monitor monitor. It is the basis of knowing what is going on in your hive! If you have the live and let die mentality then monitoring is a mute point. However if your goal is to get honey to pay for the up keep of you hive, and to see your bees grow, you need to know what is going on in the hive.

    Gone are the days of our father's and grandfather's beekeeping where we place a hive and get honey and worry of nothing else.

    A simple knowledge of what varroa mites do is good for any beekeeper to understand the detriment to the hive. As well a simple understanding of the hierachy of a hive will then increase the knowlege of how the mites take down the hive peice by piece
    Bees start out as cleaners, then nurse bees, securty, and then foragers. Basically, there might be other jobs but those are the basic ones. As a bee moves up to a new job, a healthy bee takes it's place. A continous cycle of movement in hive.
    Varroa start with the brood box bees, attaching themselves puncturing the cuticle of the bee. This allows for the diseases to vector into the bee, weakening the bee and shortening it's life span. If the bee who becomes a forager dies too soon, there is nothing to take the place, so a secutity or nurse bee moves up to soon, this in itself will cause the bee to die earlier than scheduled....and so on. This change in cycle will cause a ripple effect in the hive. When the work force is reduced, less food comes in, less bees to clean, less eggs get laid

    Now add in the damage the varroa does to the larva.
    The Varroa now enter the cells just before capping, they rest in the royal jelly until the larva has consumed it all. Then the varroa feeds off the larva, puncturing holes in the bee. The varroa lays another varroa male, the male sheds some "skin" in the cell, both mites, use the cell as a bathroom. The male and female mate, producing more females. All varroa in the cell, feed of the bee, defacate in the cell, and shed their skins. Now you have a weak bee who emerges who is to clean the cells, and follow the path of all the rest of the bees.
    Only, that bee will not make it to the end of it's natural life. It will be unable to forage for food, due to the weakened state.

    Mites double in % every three weeks. So this problem is not in just one bee cell. At 4% you will see brood damage. At the spring time (say May) of year 1% mite infestation will lead to a loss in honey production and a loss in winter survival if the mites go unchecked.

    So if you get the picture i just painted, it is easy to see how mites can so quickly take down a hive in a two fold manner. One is on the bees when they are in the hive working and one is on the brood while developing. AT the same time. These mites are aptly named the Varroa Destructor.

    I forgot to mention the diseases they vector in. Once in the hive, really hard to get rid of and cleaned up.It is costly, and will set the hive back for quite a while.

    You have just recieved mite damage on brood and bees 101....

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Does kudzu produce nectar? Or pollen?
    Mark Berninghausen
    Squeak Creek Apiaries



  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Brandon, MS USA
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    Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    I suggest to look for enough brood and bees to get keep the hive going long enough to treat it. If you have already found a mite on a bee on the ground and you have bees that can't fly...you have a Varrora mite infestation and you need to treat that NOW. Keep in mind that you may need to treat again in two weeks as all of the infected brood has hatched. We use CoRal Powder 2%. A table spoon on the top of the frames in each back corner and a third table spoon sprinkled across the middle of the front (again on top of the frames so that it falls down inside the hive) should do the trick for the next few years.

    You also mentioned seeing beetles. As you only have one hive, a good beelte trap that is well attended should be fine...Rossman's "Beetle Barn" seams to be winning the most praises. We are a large commercial operation, so we use chemical control both in and outside of the hives (too expensive for smaller operations, so traps are ok for now). NOTE: The Powdered CoRal 2% WILL KILL the beetles as well...but is only effective on them while the powder is piled on the bottom board because they actually have to step in it.

    When you inspect your hive, just check for the basics of course, queen, brood, bees, honey, pollen, pattern, moths, webbing in the cells, foul brood, and (because of the beetles) I would suggest that you get some sort of baited trap ready BEFORE you open your hive! This is especially important in southern regions... The bees put up a really good defense against the beetles by chasing them and gluing up areas where the beetles can invade and lay their eggs... When you open that hive in the high heat, the bees will undoubtedly stick their heads in the cells and begin to suck up as much as they can carry....leaving the beetles free to find a good hiding and laying place in the rear of the hive or even in the comb. The powdered CoRal 2% will take care of the beetles that get past the bees during your inspection, but you should treat the hive after you have inspected it, but before you close it. We have received 10s of thousand of requests for queens and packages in the last month from beekeepers that have had terrible losses due to the beetles. So don't take a chance with them. The varrora are not a light threat either...you have them now...you will not have bees if you do not treat them now.

    Also, you should invest in a feeder of some sort (there are many on the market), this will get you through those hard times. I think you have Golden Rod in your area which should be blooming soon too, once the hive is treated and starts to build up, you may want to find a shallow of drawn wax so that they can put up some winter stores...Golden Rod will make PLENTY.

    Good luck and feel free to ask if you need any advice or help!

    Robert Russell
    Russell Apiaries

  7. #7
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    Jun 2010
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    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Does kudzu produce nectar? Or pollen?
    I have read that it produces nectar. It is a short 7-10 day shot according to one of the past threads and supposedly makes "blue honey"?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    Moore co.N.C
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    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Had a hive with the same problem, weeks later showed sighns of bad noseama. Started with crawling bees around the hive. Look for yellow brown streakes of bee poop on and arround the hive.

  9. #9
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    Jun 2010
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    Polk Co, NC, USA
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    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Thank you all for you detailed replies and good advice.

    I went through the hive with my brother in law who has been at this 3 years and has taken some courses in it. He suggests that i go through with someone more experienced, but I haven't gotten to a meeting yet to find a mentor.

    Here is what we found. We saw no other mites in the hive (although I am sure there must be some) But looking at the bees on the frame, none caught our eye. The IPM sticky trap caught no mites but did get three bees . There were no deformed wings. I may try the powdered sugar, but since we cannot find mites even looking slowly and carefully for them I am hesitant to use chemicals.

    I found the girls' beetle corral on the right hand corner of the box behind the first frame. I don't use smoke, so they usually hold their hostages as I go in. They had 5 of them surrounded. I was able to squish 4. The beetle trap that I had put in last time (plastic, hangs down between the frames filled with oil) had only caught one.

    There was no evidence of moths or foulbrood. The cells and brood all looked healthy, just VERY spotty. Scattered here and there all over the place. There were all stages~ eggs on up. No drone cells. The three queen cups are still empty and unchanged. Not a ton of bees, but not empty either.

    The three new frames are mostly drawn and they are putting pollen in them but the queen is not laying there yet. Queen was on the second frame wandering about. She has a green dot, so I need to look up the age chart as she may just be getting old. The hive is being kept clean.

    Some honey stores on the two outer frames one capped side each and 1/2 capped each. They have just barely started on the upper foundation but did secure the comb I put in one of the foundationless and have removed the last rubberband. Should I just take this med. super off? They have three new frames in the deep. Or should I just let them continue to build comb as long as they have nothing else to do?

    Brother in law says that he would re-queen. She is such a spotty layer and the numbers are only holding, not climbing. Also I should feed even more. I set up a station. This is a very calm group of bees. Two minutes after closing up they were just hanging out. He was surprised at their lack of busy-ness (work ethic?). No flightless bees yesterday, but I think they skipped orientation.

    Sorry this is so long. Lauren Forgot to add I found them drinking from the ripe figs. Is that normal?
    Last edited by Lauren; 08-09-2010 at 07:00 AM. Reason: forgot something

  10. #10

    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Tracheal mites can also cause flightless bees. Although most commercial stocks have developed genetic resistance, there still seem to be occasional outbreaks.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Brandon, MS USA
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    Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Varrora mites feed on brood more so than hatched bees...If the infestation is fairly new, you will not see many mites on bees until the next wave hatches...even then the majority of bees that were hosting the mites will make their way out of the hive and away in order to carry the mite away...so all that you will actually see is a very small fraction of what is actually happening.

    Russian bees were orginally thought to be mite resistant, this is the reason that they were so greatly propogated across the U.S. However, they are not mite PROOF and most of their genetics have been mixed with the various strains of Italians. The resistance of the russians comes from their actively seeking brood with mites and un-capping and removing such brood.

    I would suggest that you treat the hive and remove the extra super of foundation and try to find a local beek that may be nice enough to sell you a super of drawn wax for them to build witer stores in. Foundation is best built in spring and the extra "blank" space will give pests a good place to hide. In fact, the few frames of foundation that you have in the brood chamber are most likely what is keeping your colony so small. If you can find some good drawn "dark" frames and place them between the honey frames and the brood, your queen should lay them up and boost your numbers greatly.

    The green dot on your queen most likely represtents that she was produced in 09. If she is laying an odd pattern, I would suggest that you go ahead and replace her as well. Not because there is anything wrong with her (she may simply be laying strange patterns because of the lack of space to lay in), but because you need to bulk up your hive before winter and a fresh queen is a great way to do so. Queens NEED to lay, they swell up with eggs and HAVE to get them out, this is why they "pipe" when they are caged...its her way of crying from the need to get rid of those babies. Building foundation (especially foundationless frames), takes a good strong hive, and this late in the year even a good strong hive would not be able to build that shallow and the deep frames that are needed in the chamber. Your queen should be able to lay two deeps almost solid, but you will need to help them build up their numbers and winter stores before adding any more blank space.

    I completely understand the reluctance to using chemicals...but an infestation can cripple a hive very very quickly, and this late in the year, they will not recover if the pest are not dealt with right away.

    Good luck!

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    Brandon, MS USA
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    Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Also wanted to add that using a light smoke is not only for your own comfort but also for that of your bees... Imagine how you would feel if your Carbon Monoxide detectors started going off... Thats what happens to your hive everytime they are worked. The smoke covers that alarm some and gives them a little heads up. Too much is just that...Too much, but none at all can be just as damaging.

  13. #13
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    Jun 2010
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    Polk Co, NC, USA
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    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Thanks again, guys. No Noseama marks so far, but I will keep looking. I have heard about Tracheal mites, but since I can't find them I am not sure how to look. I set up an open feeder across the yard and boy are they happy! busy busy busy. Maybe this is why the queen was so spotty?

    Russell, are you saying that I should move the newly drawn white comb frames to the outside where the honey is? I can do that. My brother in law gave me three drawn frames to put in there. I found some very soupy and nasty wax moth larvae on them and threw them out. I didn't realize what a gift fully drawn frames were. I should have frozen them and used them. live and learn.

    I will certainly keep my eyes out for pests. As a gardener, I know how a little procrastination can be the turning point for a parasite. These mites are so obvious compared to the ones I usually have to deal with!

    On the upside, my whole family is totally hooked on bees now! 10 yr old son suits up and digs in! When I got stung (squatted down and squished her) They said "Oh, mom, so she died?" not "oh. mom are you ok?" When the great big hornet came and started picking the flightless off the porch, hubby almost took her on bare handed. (but I got her with a sticky trap.)

    I do think that some of these girls are "drunk" with the figs.

    Thank you all for your time. I love this forum! You may not hear what you want, but you hear what you need to hear! Lauren

  14. #14

    Default Re: Flightless bees: Parasitic Mite Syndrome?? Poison?

    Lauren, tracheal mites are only visible using a compound microscope. You can make up an 'extender pattie' with sugar and vegetable oil (Crisco). If your bees have a tracheal mite infestation, extender patties will interrupt the mites' reproductive cycle. It will be a while before you see the results. Check with your state's apiarist (Dave Tarpy at NC State) and find out where and how to submit samples to determine if indeed it is tracheal mites.
    Good luck.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

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